Viewing the island of Oahu as an ideal microcosm of what can lie ahead on the Hydrogen highway, General Motors plans to bring up to 50 of its fuel-cell-powered Chevrolet Equinox models to the 50th state as part of a pilot program it will conduct with The Gas Company (TGC), Hawaii's major gas-energy supplier. Under terms of this collaborative agreement, TGC -- which currently produces over five percent hydrogen in addition to other synthetic natural gases -- will tap into its 1,000-mile utility pipeline system at various locations around the island and offload the separated hydrogen at 20-25 local fueling stations for use by GM's zero-emission test fleet. The goal is to have these outlets strategically positioned within a 10-minute drive for most individual involved in the program.
Hawaiian eyes have it
"This is the type of enabler that a hydrogen transportation infrastructure needs because it addresses both the source of the hydrogen and a feasible way to deliver it for fuel cell vehicle use," said Charles Freese, executive director of GM Global Fuel Cell Activities. "The Hawaii infrastructure could eventually support tens of thousands of fuel cell vehicles. Freese says the state is "uniquely positioned and motivated to make hydrogen-powered fuel cell transportation a reality because it depends on imported petroleum for 90 percent of its energy." It's also on record as seeking to cut its petroleum usage by 70 percent or more through a combination of renewable energy resources, conservation and efficiency.
Jeffrey Kissel, president and CEO of TGC, also sees the GM program as a positive sign for a cleaner, greener future. "We have been delivering as much as 12 percent hydrogen made from renewable sources to our gas customers over the last two to three years and expect we can deliver even greater quantities of hydrogen as demand increases. By delivering hydrogen through our existing infrastructure as vehicle fuel wherever we have gas, The Gas Company expands its key role of supporting Hawaii's clean energy future." Depending on how retail pricing is finally established, set, Kissel feels that hydrogen cost could be on par with gasoline.
To date, the test fleet of Chevy Fuel Cell Equinox vehicles has racked up nearly 1.4 million miles of real-world experience as part of GM's Project Driveway program that began in 2007. The automaker has invested over $1.5 billion in fuel cell transportation efforts during the past 15 years in an attempt to develop a production-intent fuel cell system that could be ready for commercialization in 2015. Recently, it revealed its second-generation hydrogen fuel-cell stack that's literally half the size, 220 pounds lighter and requires less than half the precious metal needed by the original unit.